Review Galileo by Martin Waddington, The Gallery Players, at New Wolsey until Saturday.
- Credit: Archant
Bravo! The world premiere of a clever and colourful new musical – home-grown at that - and Martin Waddington, one time musical director at the Wolsey, returns to his old haunt with his own bit of showtime magic.
Galileo is a little gem and deserves to find a wider audience. It tells the tale of the man who first established that it is the sun and not earth at the centre of our universe, his consequent battle with the church and it is chock full of good things.
With the orchestra sitting on top of Dave Borthwick’s bold Italian columned-and-arched set and the maestro at the keyboards, the show takes just a few necessary liberties with history, bubbles with good humour and sly jokes and is bursting with songs that not only send you out into the night with a smile on your face, but they also make you think.
Directed by Helen Clarke, this has a big team from Gallery Players at the top of their talent, delivering a battery of numbers which require very good singing because, apart from some complex harmonies, each of the lyrics forwards the story and the words need to be heard.
There’s just enough simple science neatly wrapped in for us dunces to understand what makes Galileo tick and Steve Taplin is simply perfect in the part. He looks and sounds right in every way and the rest of the cast spark very nicely off his performance in a piece that moves on smartly all the time.
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At the nub of it all is the church’s refusal to recognize any kind of science that it feels is in conflict with the word of God in the Bible and Galileo’s claims about the earth turning round the sun puts the Roman cardinals in a spin of fury. Galileo is a heretic, must be tried by the Inquisition and made to recant. The question is will he? No matter what he decides his passion will wreck his family hopes.
There’s a great number called Quartet of Cardinals where one of their number, Barbarini, points out that Galileo is probably right in his findings but then the diehards remind him that the Pope is dying and that Barbarini (James Hayward) is expected to succeed him. But not if he backs the heretic.
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It’s the songs that give this musical a great heart. Numbers like Moonshine Quartet which has Virginia (Naomi Doust), Galileo’s daughter and her lover Ludovico (Chris Vince) spooning in the moonlight, while her father and his student Paolo (Liam Gregory) look at la lune through a telescope. Love and science in harmony.
Shelley Clempson sings the very funny Marriage Made in Heaven and there are more laughs from Steff Brown and Phil Cory as Ludovico’s parents in Family Tradition. Emily Bennett, Galileo’s partner, has the beautiful and moving Change in the Wind.
Emilia Petryszyn, Lynne Mortimer, Natasha Staffieri, Paul Stone and Katy Pointer all have vital roles to play in a cast of just under 30 who all move and sing with facility. It’s wonderful night out.